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At Real Madrid, nothing it seems is permanent. The entire club is always in a state of flux amidst battles on and off the field, a far cry from the Galaticos era under Florentine Perez where the only question asked was which new superstar was going to don the famous white jersey.

In a way, Perez himself is partially responsible for what is happening today. As the Galaticos imploded within, a club starved of success brought in sweeping changes and a disciplinarian in Fabio Capello who unfortunately got sacked for NOT getting the team to play like the Galaticos even though he won them the La Liga title for the first time in four years.

New German coach Bernd Schuster has been roped in to get Real to revert back to their DNA but those expecting drastic changes may have to think again. His reign at Getafe has shown that this canny coach builds his team on a tremendous goalkeeper and a solid defence, relying on the counterattacking long ball to launch the team forward. He looks set to continue that style with Iker Casillas one of the world’s best in goal.

Schuster has bolstered his defence also, bringing in central defenders Christoph Metzelder and Pepe to team up with Italian Fabio Cannavaro, thus allowing Sergio Ramos to move to right back where he is at his best. New signing Royston Drenthe, a Roberto Carlos clone, looks set to claim the left back role and his rampaging runs down the flanks will be key to Madrid’s tactics under the German.

Schuster’s main strength was that he knew when to shut up shop and when to urge his men forward and he has already declared his intention in an earlier interview, promising to press further forward up the field and to give his attackers more independence to initiate and develop the attacking play. This willingness to allow his attackers more room to dribble and use their ball skills should suit players like Robinho, Raul and Gonzalo Higuian. 

More than just freedom, Schuster’s moves in the transfer market seems to suggest that he will be injecting more pace into the team, getting the players to transfer from defence to attack much more quickly to catch teams off-guard. Most of the play will be channelled through the wings where the speed of Drenthe on the left and Robinho on the right will force the opposition backwards.

The arrival of Arjen Robben gives Schuster another weapon to use on the flanks. Robben has already proven himself during his time at Chelsea to be one of Europe’s leading talents and together with Drenthe, they give Madrid one of the strongest left flanks in Spain. 

Schuster’s aim has been to create depth in strength and on the right as well, Madrid seems to have good depth especially when Higuain can also be deployed on the right in the event of injuries. New signing Javier Saviola is also capable of playing there, increasing Schuster’s options. With Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Raul seemingly entrenched as the front pairing (with Saviola for Raul and Soldado deputising for the Dutchman), the only question mark revolves around the playmaker’s role.

Schuster is a throw back in that respect, still believing in the qualities of having a player dictating play from the middle of the field. Overtures to Cesc Fabregas ended in failure, putting paid to Schuster’s plans. Actually Madrid does have options within the squad – Guti for all his inconsistency and mood swings remains very good, ideal to take the playmaker’s role. Argentine wonderkid Fernando Gago is the other option and he certainly has the quality although Schuster will have to restore his confidence level to see him at his best.

With doubts surrounding both players, Madrid has brought in Wesley Sneijder from Ajax Amsterdam and while he may look slender and waif-like, this Dutch international is a supremely confident playmaker and he looks set to become Schuster’s natural successor in the lore of Madrid midfield generals. Another option would be to play him on the left with Guti and Diarra anchoring the side through the middle, giving the team a more solid feel.

With all the pieces of his grand plan appearing to be in place, Schuster has already stamped his identity on the Real Madrid team. Whether that is going to translate into success and glory remains a huge question mark and it will be interesting to see how this new era pans out.

Possible Real Madrid First XI:
Casillas; Ramos, Metzelder, Pepe, Drenthe; Guti, Diarra, Sneijder, Robinho; Raul; Van Nistelrooy

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